An intense lack of interest in life, constant emotional numbness, and an abnormally overwhelming sense of melancholy that prevents you from following your daily routine are hallmarks of depressive disorder or depression.
The warning signs can vary from person to person based on many factors such as age, emotional sensitivity or bandwidth, gender, etc.
While it is okay to feel a little down once in a while, persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or excessive negativity to the point that you feel like you are almost living under a rock at all times is a significant sign to look out for.
To understand how to approach depression correctly, you must be aware of its root causes or how it is triggered in the first place and the major symptoms. Let us dive into the details.
Causes of Depression
Many mistake depression for normal sadness and sometimes even fail to make sense of the symptoms they are experiencing.
You may feel very bitter when you are grieving or mourning, but that is not what depression is. Grief could be one of the primary causes or signs of depression, or it may be a co-existing mental condition that may need additional management.
For example, sexual abuse, heartbreak, or loss of loved ones can cause immense grief and eventually trigger depression. And once you suffer from clinical depression, it is hard for you to stay happy, as you are constantly in a state of intense grief.
So, this is a vicious cycle, which brings us to the main point of the article-What exactly causes depression? The origins are hard to find as no evidence indicates a particular cause of depression. But here are some commonly observed causes documented by different research studies:
- Substantial hormonal changes can cause depression.
- Depression can be hereditary, so you may be genetically predisposed to the condition that runs in the bloodline.
- Depression can be a possible co-morbidity if you unknowingly suffer from other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and anxiety.
- Physical alterations or imbalance in your brain is another common cause.
- Substance abuse or addiction can also lead to depressive disorder.
- A negative outlook or pessimistic thoughts about life, in general, could also trigger depressive symptoms or have been linked to an increased incidence of depression.
- Those with low confidence and low self-esteem since their childhood are more likely to suffer from depression at some point in their lives.
- Extremely painful or traumatizing childhood experiences can scar you for life and result in the development of depressive disorders in the future.
- Several medical problems are also linked to higher chances of causing depression, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, a weaker heart susceptible to strokes/heart attack, etc.
- Chronic mental, emotional, and physical pain can also trigger severe depression in the long run.
- Inactivity in the frontal lobe of your brain makes you prone to depressive disorders.
- Many unsupervised medications can also result in depression – birth control pills, stimulants, and beta blockers.
- Bullying and social ostracization can affect your emotional health, causing depression.
- Vitamin D deficiency is connected to depressive symptoms, according to some studies.
- Sexual orientation, economic status, and gender identity can also play minor roles in triggering depression.
- A disturbed balance of neurotransmitters in the brain causes abnormalities, leading to depression.
Important Symptoms of Depression
Do not ignore the following signs of depression if they occur frequently. We would recommend consulting your primary care physician first before reaching out to mental health providers if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Feeling exhausted and sluggish at all times
- Constantly being overwhelmed by too many negative thoughts and emotions
- Sudden unexplained weight loss or gain, rapidly fluctuating weight
- Inability to focus on work or studies affecting your performance
- Reduced sex drive
- Sleep cycle disturbances occur almost every day
- Higher likelihood of forgetting things
- Constant feeling of numbness that refuses to go away
- Constantly apprehensive and on edge
- Body pain, headaches, and other persistent gastrointestinal issues
- Intense irritability and discontentment
- A general disinterest in life, everyday routine as well as favorite activities
- Tendency to avoid social situations
- Increased instances of impulsive behavior
- Emotionally distant behavior and being overly self-critical at all times
- Increased dependence on drugs and alcohol
- Tendency to detach from routine work and family responsibilities
- Loss of appetite and constant mood swings
- Tendency to resort to violence and dangerous behavior
- Frequently troubled by suicidal thoughts in extreme cases
Not all those who suffer from depression show the above symptoms but all of them go through intense emotional trauma and suffering. The majority of them endure in silence and probably go untreated for years.
It can be counterproductive and worsen the condition triggering elevated levels of hostility and irreversible loss in some situations. Therefore, it is best not to hide your depression symptoms if you know the disorder beforehand.
Different Categories/Types of Depression
There are multiple types of depressive disorders, and the symptoms vary based on which kind of depression you or your loved ones are affected by. We are listing them below:
- PDD or Persistent depressive disorder – a moderately intense depression that can be temporary if treated on time
- Clinical depression/major depressive disorder – the most severe form of depression
- PMDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder – is a moderate to severe form of depression causing rapid mood fluctuations and frustration while you are on your period
- Prenatal and postpartum depression – It’s a depression symptom that develops and persists throughout pregnancy.
- Seasonal depression – These depressive symptoms start in the fall/winter and reduce or fade away by spring/summer.
- DMDD or disruptive mood dysregulation disorder – depressive symptoms mostly associated with children and adolescents. If your kid is short-tempered, you might want to confirm if they are prone to DMDD.
Different depressive states manifest differently, so only a highly qualified, licensed medical professional will help you with effective treatments and coping strategies.
For starters, you can use these depression tests to know if you have any of the symptoms as mentioned above:
- Depression Test – Free mental health tests from Mental Health America (mhanational.org)
- Quiz: Depression | Smokefree
These assessments may or may not help you confirm your depressive symptoms, so they are not a substitute for systematic diagnosis by medical practitioners.
Treatments for Depression
Correct diagnosis goes a long way in treating depression most effectively. Your therapist or psychiatrist will recommend the following treatments depending on your case.
- Psychotherapy based on approaches such as CBT, EFT, EMDR, DBT or IPT
- Holistic psychiatric care
- Deep brain stimulation/DBS
- Electroconvulsive therapy – very popularly used and FDA-approved
- Vagus nerve stimulation – very popularly used and FDA-approved
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation etc. – is very popularly used and FDA-approved
- Prescription medication to alter brain chemistry, such as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Fetzima, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Paxil or Lexapro, antidepressants like bupropion, tranylcypromine, esketamine or Spravato (N-methyl D-aspartate)
Non-FDA Approved Methods to Treat Depression
Apart from using FDA-approved protocols for treating depression, you should also ensure that you make important lifestyle changes and foster healthy habits.
You should include enough omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, B6, and D supplements in your diet to improve brain/body functions. It can help alleviate depressive symptoms.
Also, we would advise you to implement the following tips in addition to punctually complying with your treatment plan:
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water and maintain a healthy diet full of veggies, proteins, and healthy carbs so you get all the micronutrients
- Exercise daily
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, etc, as much as possible
- Try out beneficial breathing techniques and yoga to destress
- Have milestones in your progress plan and reward yourself with your favorite food items in moderation – you can find comfort in foods like chocolate. But the amount must be controlled to avoid overeating and too much dependence on food.
- Aim for a consistent sleep schedule to get at least 6 to 8 hours of rest – wake up and sleep on time.
- Share your feelings with the people you trust
- Prioritize work and divide it into smaller goal-oriented tasks for greater efficiency.
This way, you can leverage the benefits of professional therapeutic and psychiatric care, promoting faster results with better treatment outcomes that can help you sustain normal, happy living for longer durations.
If you are well aware of the causes and symptoms and can explain them clearly to your therapist or psychiatrist, devising the right combination of treatment plans using the best techniques or approaches becomes far easier.
If your loved ones are experiencing classic depression symptoms, they must receive your care and support so they are encouraged to start their treatment as soon as possible.
Such well-thought-out treatments based on a proper evaluation of the underlying root cause and obvious and hidden warning signs will work better in helping you manage your depression.
On your doctor’s advice, you can also experiment with supporting therapies such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, light therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture, etc., to improve your condition and prevent relapse.
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.